Lets take a look back at history through the perspective of the Sabres rear view mirror.
Lets start with the year of the lockout. When the team looked in their rear view mirror, they saw many fans..drifting away, and a league that might not come back from the labor stoppage. They needed to find a way to keep that from happening.
One year goes by, and the Sabres look up into their rear view mirror once play resumes, and since they had a team built for the new NHL, there was no one close enough to worry about, the Sabres easily ran away with the Division en route to a conference championship birth.
Another year goes by, and its the same old story, no one close enough to worry about, so they kept the same team in tact and breezed their way into not only the conference championship game, but won the teams first Presidents trophy in history.
Those years out of the lockout were probably the best years in Sabres history, the team didn’t have to change because, well, they were the best in the league, and youth just kept them away from the finals. So off season comes around, and instead of getting to work when the alarm went off early in the morning of free agency, they watched their team get dismantled one peice at a time. After finishing tenth, and missing the playoffs, we all figured, hey it will be different, because this team has one before.
July 1st rolled around again, and there it was, the dreaded snooze button, hit over and over again while other teams got right up and worked free agency.
After two years of missing the playoffs and watching free agents leave Buffalo and sign for money elsewhere, you would think they would have learned their lesson. Wrong again. Spacek was handed a one year deal which he turned down for a three year deal in Montreal. Sabres left struggling to find a team again.
In the meantime, everyone else in the division is getting better. Boston will remain at the top of the division – adding to a core team that should have challenged for the Stanley Cup. Montreal had a very busy free agency – adding and losing players at a whiplashed pace, changing the chemistry of the team that underachieved last year. We all knew that Mr. Burke was going to make changes in Toronto, and changes were made.
We hear the same excuses every year, no one wants to come to Buffalo, we are a small market team and can’t spend big money on free agents. We are going to try and grow the product from within. Well that line of thinking doesn’t work in the new NHL. In fact, it never did. Darcy Regier is however, to comfortable in his current position. So long that he doesn’t feel that his job is threatened, he is going to maintain the status quo – hoping that the day will come when he gets to say, “I told you so.” Trouble is, it will never happen.
For more on how the rest of the division is blowing past Buffalo this off season, check out Bucky Gleasons article in the Buffalo News.